“Where did I put my keys?” “What is the name of that… that one guy who borrowed my car?”Every human tends to be forgetful now-and-then. Our memories will become even worse if actual damage occurs to brain cells from a stroke or advanced Alzheimer’s disease. One optimistic outlook for brain-implanted neuron devices is that they could be used to help keep our memories sharp, or at least replace the function of lost neurons critical for remembering the names of your loved ones.
Prof. Theodore Berger at the University of Southern California is working on developing circuits that can be used to fill a functional gap due to damaged neurons. Their interesting approach to developing “bionic” chips is to implant a silicon processor into the hippocampus to interface with existing neurons. (This part of the brain is considered to have a significant role in memory function.)
At the time of this article, the group has not demonstrated an actual implanted chip calculating away inside a living brain. Rather, they have mathematical models that have guided their chip’s circuit design. Simulations show that these things might work, but it all depends on how well the initial models were set up. They also don’t talk too much about how they plan to interface the silicon chip’s electrodes with existing neurons in the brain. This will be the critical step for a successful implanted device. We’ll keep a close, and excited eye on this group from USC!